Directed by Quentin Dupieux. Cast: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida, Remy Thorne, David Bowe, Ethan Cohn, Charley Koontz, Devin Brochu, Daniel Quinn, Cecilia Antoinette, Hayley Holmes, Haley Ramm, Courtney Taylor, James Parks, Thomas F. Duffy, Blake Robbins, Tara Jean O'Brien. 2011 80 minutes Rated: (for some violent images and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 6, 2011.
A murderous tire paves a bloody path through the California desert in the category-defying "Rubber," a film with a premise so out-there one could imagine it turning into either a masterpiece or one of the most idiotic pictures in recent memory. Had writer-director Quentin Dupieux treated things with a strictly serious slant and built a darker, more threatening tone, he would have been on the right track. With a lonely, desolate settingmuch of the narrative takes place at a dusty moteland razor-sharp cinematography (also courtesy of Dupieux) aiding the material, the filmmaker could have easily made a veritably scary little horror tale. Dupieux does not trust his audience enough to commit to this, so he opts for a satirical slant wherein the ridiculousness of the plot is acknowledged in the first scene: Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the cameraand audienceabout the film being "an homage to no reason." You see, plenty of far-fetched or contrived elements are littered throughout cinema, and the viewer automatically accepts them without question. With that kind of thinking in place, why not make an inanimate object such as a tire be the killer?
The tire (billed in the end credits as "Robert," har, har!) rises from the desert one bright, sunshiny day and starts rolling along on its own, flattening anything in its path (e.g., an empty water bottle, a scorpion). When it has trouble destroying a glass beer bottle, the tire turns to psychokinetic powers that makes the object explode. From this, a nearly unstoppable maniac is unleashed, one with the ability to finally make people's heads spontaneously burst. As a ragtag group of onlookers with binoculars, metaphorically positioned as the audience viewing the movie, watch the events unfold, the police are called in to investigate a motel maid who has met a grisly end and the tire's central target, Sheila (Roxane Mesquida) an exotic young woman passing through who may be able to help them put an end to the reign of terror.
"Rubber" doesn't try to be the least bit creepy, only graphically violent. Its humor at the onset is cute, but it's there to make an early point about the disparateness of filmgoers and their overall propensity for suspending disbelief. Otherwise, the picture is, no pun intended, extraordinarily middle-of-the-road, neither working as slasher or slapstick. With virtually every human character peripheral or no more than cameo-sized in stature, there is no one to care even remotely about. "Rubber" finally boils down to the camera following a tire roll around, with animals and people we don't know getting their heads blown up. It's all barebones and overly literal. With respect to its initial ambition, it's also terribly boring, stretched to the brink at 80 minutes.